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'Baby Jagr' Frolik all grown up with Blackhawks

by Mike G. Morreale

CHICAGO -- There was a time when Chicago Blackhawks wing Michael Frolik was dubbed "The Baby Jagr" while starring in his hometown of Kladno, Czech Republic.

The comparisons were a bit far-fetched, according to Frolik, but he was honored to be mentioned in the same breath as his childhood hero: current Boston Bruins wing Jaromir Jagr.

"When I was young, they called me ['Baby Jagr'] but I never really got into it," Frolik said Tuesday. "I know it's not true. I know how he was … he's one of a kind. What he did in his career is unbelievable."

Wednesday, Frolik will be living a childhood dream when he plays in the Stanley Cup Final for the Blackhawks against the Bruins in Game 1 here at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), competing with Jagr for hockey's grand prize.

Playing for a Cup is something Jagr experienced twice over his career, and the fact Frolik will be opposing him has special meaning.

"It's a huge thing ... he was always my idol, and we're from the same hometown, and when I was young I always looked up to him," Frolik said. "For sure, it's a big honor to play against him, and it's unbelievable that he's still playing at this level at his age [41]. I'm excited to play against him and hopefully it'll be fun games."

Though Frolik may not have the skills of Jagr, he has a similar playing style and a smile that is eerily identical to that of the former Hart Trophy winner. Additionally, each played for the Kladno junior team in the Czech Republic as youngsters and was a first-round NHL draft choice.

They also were teammates for the bronze medal-winning Czech Republic in the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.

"That was an exciting time," Frolik said. "It was awesome to be with him in the same room, play with him on same team. I tried to learn from him and watch him in practice and how he trains. It was great experience … something I'll never forget. …

"We might have played in similar tournaments, but there's only one Jagr so I don't even think about it," Frolik said. "Everybody from back home used to watch [Jagr], and it's unbelievable to think we had a player like that in our hometown. He's one of the best players in the world."

Jagr recalled Frolik as a 16-year-old playing in the Czech Extraliga for Rabat Kladno.

"I remember the year he played professionally for the first time in his career [in 2004-05]," Jagr said. "I think it was during the lockout and he was 16. The only other guy who played at 16 was me, and he was on the first line. He has always been a good player."

Following two seasons in the Extraliga, Frolik was selected No. 10 by the Florida Panthers in the 2006 NHL Draft. During his third season with the Panthers, 2010-11, Frolik was traded to the Blackhawks.

He has been a big contributor in a bottom-six role for the Blackhawks during these Stanley Cup Playoffs. He and linemate Marcus Kruger are the top two forwards on the team in ice time while shorthanded.

"[Michael's] a role player, and you need your role players to step up in order to reach this point in the playoffs," Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo told "We're lucky enough to have top guys, who on any given team can be the best players, but you need guys like [Brandon] Bollig, Frolik and myself to step up and chip in to score, hit or do whatever it takes in order to make a long run like this. You can't just rely on the main guys all the time."

The Blackhawks are ranked first in the League on the penalty-kill through three rounds, and coach Joel Quenneville will look to Frolik and Kruger again when the Bruins are given the man-advantage, a unit that likely will include Jagr.

"I think we're similar in style but maybe I lead a little more up ice and pressure them while Michael is able to read off me a little bit," Kruger said. "At the same time, we read off each other and when I'm out of position he'll cover for me.

"You can't allow any shots from the middle and must keep it to the outside … clear the rebounds."

Frolik has three goals, six points and the Blackhawks' one shorthanded goal in 17 playoff games, all career highs.

"I think he's a smart player and he's European being from Sweden, so the chemistry kind of clicked," Frolik said of playing with Kruger. "He's a smart player. We're always trying to talk about things before a game … what we plan on doing so that we're on the same page. The key is to play shorter shifts, keep the energy high and outwork the power play."


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